Sunday, March 3, 2013

Novel Review: The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating (Out of 5): ~3-3.5
Publisher: Random House (Delacorte Press)
Spoilers?: No/Very Minor
View it here: Goodreads.

Amazon Synopsis:

The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him, he has no money and no job, and his parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester, who is old, blind, very sick, and very rich, to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner. 
     But Alton's parents aren't the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp's good graces. There is Trapp's longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family.
     Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda, as he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

Something Special:
Quotes (there are a lot):
  •  "My father doesn't trust car salesman. He also doesn't like lawyers, bankers, plumbers, electricians, politicians, or swimming-pool contractors." (Hardback, pg. 88) I also ended up putting this in the Teaser Tuesday for this book, but I just liked it, and could relate to not trusting people in certain professions.
  • "I realize it's a cliche for a teenager to be embarrassed by his parents. Cliff often complained about his parents, but I always thought they were pretty cool. Was it possible, I wondered, that there was somebody, somewhere, who thought my parents were cool?" (Hardback, pg. 89) I've thought about this before, and just liked seeing it written.
  • "'...the character traits we admire--kindness, generosity, honesty--all lead to failure. And the character traits we supposedly abhor--greed and selfishness and the like--are the character traits of successful people.'" (Hardback, pg. 146) This just caught my attention. I think it is, at least somewhat, true, and I don't like that.
  • "He told me that the secret of success was to never spend more than you had. 'Don't use credit cards. Don't owe anyone money.' Once you go into debt, he had said, you lose your freedom." (Hardback, pg. 222) This is something that I've always thought--the part about never spending more money than you have. Not a lot of people seem to think the same thing, and that bothers me.


I was a bit surprised by this book. It wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good, and it took me in some places that I didn’t expect.
Alton, the main character, has always been pushed into sucking up to his rich uncle, even though he’s never really cared about him one way or another. But then his uncle’s usual cardturner can’t show, so Alton gets roped into doing it. You see, his uncle plays bridge several times a week, but is blind and so needs someone to play his cards for him. As Alton starts working for his uncle, he also learns to play bridge, and even grows up a bit along the way.
I liked Alton for the most part. Generally, he just seemed like an average teenage guy. He tended to mope over girls a bit too much, and let his friend push him around too much, but I guess he grows up a bit by the end. He mentions at the end that he isn’t going to let his friend push him around, but the reader didn’t actually get to see him come to the conclusion that his friend was doing it, or deciding not to let him. I feel like that part of his growing up wasn’t shown, which bothers me.
The romance was a very small part of the book, and I’m kind of glad. I wasn’t a huge fan of the girl, or the ex-girlfriend (even if we saw practically none of her), or his friend.
I liked his uncle. He was the silent, brooding type, but I liked him. His history was interesting, and I liked learning about it along with Alton.
I was kind of expecting what happened to him to happen, but not so suddenly or early in the book, and I wasn’t expecting what happened next to happen. A kind of supernatural element was added, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It worked well and I did like parts of it, but it just bothered me a bit because the rest of the book is solidly contemporary, I guess.
We got to see Alton’s little sister several times throughout the story, and I really liked her. She was nice and a little feisty; I liked her relationship with Alton, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of her. We also met several people who play bridge, and I liked them enough.
There is a lot of bridge in this game. A lot. And I liked how there was a symbol to warn when a big part was going to focus on it, that was well done. Some parts are still a little confusing to me (like the betting), but I now actually have an interest in playing the game.
Overall, this was just a pretty good book to me. I liked it, but it was pretty average. Even saying that, though, I marked a lot of pages with quotes that I liked, and only included some of them above. There was another that was kind of spoiler-y so I didn't include it, and one that was about the trick to putting an egg in a milk bottle, which I'd never heard of before but thought was interesting--there wasn't one definite quote for it, though. There were a lot of small things that I liked, too: like the thing about synchronicity, and falling pianos, and how Alton messed up words at points, and the money thing and what his uncle ended up doing with his, and more that I can't think of right now. A lot of small things that made this enjoyable.
Sidenote: the cover kind of confuses me. It's not bad, and the feel of it kind of works, but I don't understand why he's at a bus station sort of place. I don't think he visits one even once throughout the whole book. So why...?

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